March 30, 2009 Rotogram

 

PUBLIC POLICY ADVOCATES

Mississippi First is a civic advocacy force to promote better public policy in, health, and alleviation of poverty. The new non-profit organization’s founders are Rachel Hicks, executive director, and Sanford Johnson, deputy director. The Starkville High grads are children of Rotarian Debra and Michael Hicks, and, Rotarian W.C. and Everlyn Johnson, respectively.

NEXT WEEK

Takatoshi “Taka” Sato, our Rotary Youth Exchange student from Japan, will tell about his homeland, his family, and his experiences as a student ambassador. Outbound RYE students Laura Bridges (Denmark) and Anna Follett (Italy) also will join us.

LAST WEEK

Invocation and Pledge: Rex Buffington

Attendance: There were 120 members (37 exempt, 2 honorary) present, and 81 (18 exempt, 8 honorary) absent.

Guests and visitors: Members’ guests included Glover Triplett of John Robert Arnold, and Harry Howell of Matt Cox. Guests of the Club were Paul Sims of the Starkville Daily News, Paulo Salazar of WCBI-TV, Tim Pratt of the Commercial Dispatch, Rick Hux, assistant to Tate Reeves, Taka Sato, RYE student and Jarred Reneau, Ambassadorial Cultural Scholar.

Makeups: Frank Childs made up at West Point,  and Carey Harden at the Thunder in the Valley air show in Columbus, GA. Mark Guyton presented President-elect Martha Wells with a club banner from his meeting in London, England.

Rotary Minute: President-elect Martha explained how we fund community organizations and presented two support checks.

Barbara McLaurin, incoming presiDent of the Starkville-MSU Symphony Association, accepted a $1,000 donation. She reminded us that, after 40 years, ours is still the nation’s smallest community to support a symphony orchestra.

Our $250 sponsorship of one of the community’s 8 Boys State delegates was received by Jim Martin of American Legion Post 13.

Rotary Youth Exchange: Maintaining the tradition of recent RYE students, Taka is participating in the Starkville High School drama program. In the latest production, Children of Eden, he is the fifth section of the serpent.

A BALANCED VIEW OF TOUGH TIMES

Along with the rest of the United States, Mississippi’s revenues are down. However, the state is on its most stable fiscal ground in years due to the reduction of its debt portfolio.

Tate Reeves, the state’s 53rd treasurer, laced his economic report with a personal philosophy to “be mindful of where are and where we came from.”

Noting that every dollar allocated to debt retirement is a dollar that cannot be spent on other services, he explained his crusade to reduce indebtedness.

In 2004, the state debt had grown to $3.2 billion from a $500 million mark in 1990. The current debt retirement cost as a portion of the state budget is down to 6.5 percent from the high of 10.5 percent.
Addressing the economic climate, Reeves said, “Rarely in the good times are things as good as they seem. And, rarely in the bad times are things as bad as they seem.”

Tax receipts are a good barometer of economic activity. Year-over-year, sales taxes are up 1.7 percent and personal income taxes are up .7 percent for the first 8 months of fiscal year 2009. Combined, these two taxes account for nearly 85 percent of Mississippi’s revenue.

As surprising as this sounds compared to the national economy, Reeves said, “First, Mississippi doesn’t experience the peaks that many others do. As a result, we really don’t experience the troughs. Second, our economic cycle tends to be behind that of the nation.”

Tate’s concern rises when considering the corporate income tax that accounts for about 10 percent of state revenue. That stream is down 20 percent from FY 08.

“Our small businesses that are the state’s primary job creators are really struggling,” said Tate. “That tells me our Mississippi economy is likely to get worse before it gets better.”

The latest revenue projections predict a current year’s revenue decline of 2.4 percent. Reeves said an additional decline of one percent is expected for FY 10.

He compared this period to the less-than-one-year “blip” of 2000-2001. The expectation is for a longer and deeper downturn.

Looking at the $860 billion federal stimulus package, Reeves said, “In our state, as in most others, it looks like the money will stimulate spending, but not necessarily state government revenue growth.”

Medicaid and education, prime targets of Mississippi’s more than $2.5 billion share, will benefit by assuring funding that would have to have been found somewhere. This only brings education’s budget back to the 2007 level.

Reeves defended Gov. Barbour’s decision not to accept the unemployment compensation allocation as an effort to avoid long-term difficulties. He stressed that more than 98 percent of the package is being accepted.
“Our taxpayers are going to be asked to pay for their fair share of the stimulus,” he said. “Therefore, we need to take all the money that will not cause long-term difficulties.”

The treasurer’s reservations are based on a concern that short-term growth probably will borrow from the future. He wished that a larger portion of the package would have gone to projects that put people to work and provide needed infrastructure repairs and improvements.

Reeves said the fiscal challenges are hurting families and businesses. He emphasized that it is not a question of whether Mississippi will be affected, but of how it emerges from the economic storm.

DISTRICT MEETING REGISTRATION

Rotarians who attend the district conference as voting delegates will be reimbursed for registration, travel and lodging. The district business will be on the morning of April 18. Based on our membership, our club is eligible to send 8 electors.

Service Opportunities and Schedules
Cotton District Arts Festival……………………………………………………………………………………. April 18
Indian Group Study Exchange Team …………………………………………………………………… April 21-23

BETWEEN THE LIONS

Help a 4– or 5-year-old get a head start on learning. Volunteer as a reader for our literacy project. We read to the children for 15 minutes at First Presbyterian’s childcare center on Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. and at the Emerson Family School on Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. You may read once or many times. Whatever you do benefits the children. Tell David Vanlandingham or Brent Fountain when  you can help.

Previous post:

Next post: